The Plot To Remilitarize Japan

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You like conspiracy theories? If so, try this one, born and bred right here. Article Nine of the 1947 Japanese Constitution – largely drafted of course by America in the wake of WWII – prohibits the nation from resolving international disputes by force. In other words it imposes pacifism on a country that, in the light of its shamefully bellicose and brutally imperialist conduct over the first half of the 20th Century, could use some pacifying. This is of course not saying that other countries – Holland, France, the UK, Spain, etc. – were not also shamefully bellicose and brutally imperialistic – or that Germany was not history’s most deplorable of all monsters. But none of those countries was ever denied by the global community an army, and Germany was very soon remilitarized after 1945. So why was Japan thus singled out? It was just chess – simple as that. A perennial threat to the area, particularly to China and Korea, it was thought best to defang Japan and let Reconstruction under US aegis take hold. We must remember that the country was devastated by American attacks, two of them the world’s only examples so far of nuclear warfare. We must also remember that this was an era — and it lasted well into the sixties — when “Made in Japan” meant cheap shit, often the kind of dross you got in Christmas crackers and bubble-gum machines. The nation couldn’t have afforded a military with modern armaments even if it had been allowed to possess one. But, tempus fugit, all that has certainly changed. Yet Article Nine is still there, still an ineluctable feature of the Japanese Constitution, as difficult to budge as the Second Amendment.

 

But all this is changing, or being pushed towards change; and Prime Minister Abe is at the forefront of this effort – or he seems to be. The nation’s single longest-serving PM, and scion of a political dynasty (his grandfather was PM from 1957 to 1960), you could say Abe was completing the ancestral legacy of restoring Japan to its dignity as a fully-fledged player on the world stage – this was his grandfather’s stated and unsuccessful mission. Except that, very quietly indeed, Japan has been throwing its (admittedly unarmed in any serious way) military might around for some time now, and unabashedly on behalf of the US. It was a (rather limp-wristed) member of the so-called coalition to invade Iraq in 2003; and it has participated in more recent actions in the East China Sea and elsewhere in the area. As unpublicized as these ventures were, they nonetheless send a message to other countries in the region – China, North Korea – which have historical reasons to fear a remilitarized Japan, since they were despoiled in the most appalling fashion during the years leading up to WWII. But the country is divided around 50-50 on the issue of rearming. This is why they need a forceful nudge to vote Yes – and they are getting it.

 

It is surely no coincidence that the missiles fired today and recently by North Korea, although putatively announced as capable of hitting the US mainland, in fact threaten mostly Japan, violating airspace and landing off the Japanese coast. We must ask ourselves why Rocket Man would taunt the US in such a wanton manner, when he knows beyond all doubt that a war with America would result in the utter destruction of his country, his regime and probably himself too. I have suggested previously here that Pyongyang must know something we don’t about its security from US attacks to continue with this brazen baiting. I am inclined to think now that this something is an agreement with the US administration to willfully menace Japan in order to sway public opinion there towards remilitarization. It’s working too, the percentages changing in favour of Yes with every missile launch. Incredible, you say. Yet if the Trump government does not take action against Pyongyang for this latest affront then I shall be forced to conclude it’s true. We know that back-channel discussions with Pyongyang have been in progress for some time, but we are never told what is being discussed on them. In the game of chess that is, and always has been international geo-politics, such duplicitous scams are far from unusual.

 

Why would Trump or anyone condone such a policy? There are two simple and highly persuasive answers to this. First is money – of course it is. The trillions Japan would inevitably spend on rearming would go straight into the coffers of America’s biggest business, the military-industrial complex, in which the Trump organization is heavily invested, and which always generously rewards its collaborators (take Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld, whose net worth increased ten-thousand-fold after the Iraq War) . The second answer is pure geo-politics. With China roaring its way into becoming an economic powerhouse rivalling the US, if not far exceeding the world’s most chronic debtor-nation, it is useful to have a sworn enemy in the immediate locale and armed to the teeth, missiles just a hop away. Essentially a slave-state since the war, Japan rearmed will indubitably continue on as an American vassal, obeying any and all orders from the State Department and whomsoever else in Washington is impelled to order them. It wouldn’t have to get to the brink of war, though. The Chinese leadership, more subtle and forward-thinking than any other government on earth, won’t need hostilities to tell them what a remilitarized Japan on their doorstep means. When American might moves closer, China may also make a move somewhere uncomfortable for Washington. And so the game proceeds, as it always has done, with the muggles picking up the tab, trembling in their boots, and electing increasingly autocratic governments to defend their paltry stake in life. Call it history. The only anomaly here is that a rearmed Japan would pose a clear and present danger to North Korea as well. But Rocket Man is clearly not the sharpest tool in the workshop, and who’s to say he’s been confided with the whole plan? Those who doubt such nefarious schemes go forward in governments ought to look up how Winston Churchill allowed Coventry to be bombed rather than reveal that the Brits had cracked the famous Nazi Enigma code, thereby obviating any further intelligence via the code. Thousands have been slaughtered to further a strategy or policy. As they say, All’s fair in love and war.

 

Paul William Roberts

robertspaulwilliam@gmail.com

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The Purgatorial Papers

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Let’s face it, the classless society is a fantasy, one among many carrots dangled in front of the lumbering masses for encouragement in their slogging travail. The so-called Paradise Papers are just a wrapper around the root vegetable. Does it really come as a shock to find the Queen and Madonna entrusting funds to skillful money-managers for the purpose of saving on taxes? The only salient phrase in all the pullulating news blather on this superfluous topic is that such offshore transactions were “perfectly legal” (i.e. for those still uncertain, they were not illegal). When you’re already paying countless millions in taxes, is it difficult to understand the urge to save as much as possible wherever and however it’s possible to do so? I remember when the Beatles were grumbling about being fleeced for 95% of their income, and George Harrison wrote his marvellous Taxman:

 

Should five percent appear too small

Be careful I don’t take it all

‘Cos I’m the Taxman

Be careful when you die –

Declare the pennies on your eyes

‘Cos I’m etc. etc.

 

There is possibly a case to be made for a cap on personal income tax, a ceiling above which you can keep all your money. The shameful grab known as Death Duties also needs to be revised in a more equitable fashion. I was at school with the scion of one of England’s more historic and venerable dukedoms, which endured the worst of all possible scenarios. Two dukes died in quick succession, and so the estate underwent the payment of two sets of death duty. They were asset rich but cash poor, yet the assets, including property, were mostly family heirlooms. A Holbein portrait is not merely a valuable painting when its subject is your ancestor. This family had prime ministers and eminent generals in its line, and therefore many mementoes that were far more than just collectable stuff. The taxmen didn’t care, of course; and to avoid selling everything to pay off their debt, the family ended up gifting their ancient country seat and its contents to the government, in exchange for continuing to occupy a few apartments in it, as well as to supervise the opening of their erstwhile home to the public. This the new duke quite enjoyed, sitting in his booth collecting half-crowns from visitors and signing autographs. Even so, the overhead was steep enough that, before long, they had a wild game park and antique market in the grounds. It should not be hard to comprehend that those faced with this or similar situations will take advantage of every available means to hang onto a little of the wealth by consulting experts in the field.  We should not punish success, not even the success of antiquity.

 

Brits today were risibly horrified to learn that Her Majesty’s offshore investments included shares in a couple of morally questionable enterprises. Does anyone seriously imagine that old Elizabeth sits around with her shady brokers, saying, “Oh, that does seem like a profitable little racket, doesn’t it? I think we should buy in!” She’s probably never even met the men who deal with the men who advise on investments – and as long as the advice seems good she probably doesn’t want to know about any of its boring machinations. At 90, after a lifetime of dutiful service to an undeserving rabble, she ought to be spared the aggravation. Yes, those investing on behalf of the monarchy should be a little more cautious what they invest in than they would be for, say, Madonna, but at the end of the day they did nothing illegal – so why don’t we shut up about it!

 

Supposedly there are 3,300 Canadians whose financial affairs have been unethically exposed to public scrutiny by this leak of private documents. These people too have done nothing illegal. But, like allegations of sexual harassment, being on this list is treated as if it’s proof of tax-evasion and some other species of financial skullduggery. The allegation alone is enough – and this is not good for the world. The recent revelation of Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s surprising wealth was similarly treated by hypocritical bleats from the opposition parties – as if the very fact of having millions were in itself conclusive proof of malfeasance. No doubt those politicians past and present now mentioned in the Paradise Papers – mentioned for doing nothing illegal – will be pilloried in a similar fashion, until the public, curtesy of the media, loses interest in the subject. I should not want my financial affairs made available to all and sundry – if only for their embarrassing paucity. But like poverty, though, wealth ought not to be a cause for shame. It is of course the cause of jealousy – and that is really at the root of these half-baked non-news stories. Those puerile anarchic elements who imagine this latest non-expose will usher in a golden age of egalitarian reforms will be left griping about conspiracies of the wealthy and the unfairness of it all, as the rest of us sail into the sunset of yet another year. Does the ever-tardy Revolution even remember the Panama Papers, that considerably more damning deluge of documents about which nothing was also done? It’s lonely up on the apex of the social pyramid, looking down at all the shaking fists and rattling billhooks – yet one must assume it has its consolations. I am reminded of an old joke that Christopher Hitchens used to tell, bless him:

 

An American student revisits his old professor at Oxford. The professor asks him what he’s up to now. “I’m finishing my Ph.D. thesis on the survival of the ruling class in America,” says the student.

“Oh,” says the professor, “I thought there wasn’t supposed to be a ruling class in America anymore?”

“No one does,” says the boy. “That’s how it survives…”

 

Paul William Roberts

robertspaulwilliam@gmail.com

 

Devisive Devision

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Divide and conquer: that was the principle behind Britain’s old imperial adventures, nowhere more apparent than in the parting fuck-you gesture given to a newly-created Pakistan and an anciently decimated India. Bangladesh used to be East Pakistan (and before that it was East Bengal) – a nation in two pieces separated by hundreds of miles has a great future ahead of it, doesn’t it? While virtually all non-Muslims left Pakistan – and those that remained, mostly Christians, lived to regret it – most Indian Muslims remained in India, feeling fairly certain that whatever Pakistan became it wouldn’t be good for business. It was also obvious that the new Islamic state and the old, nominally Hindu state would not coexist in harmony – which indeed they did not and have not ever since, waging both hot war and cold for the past seventy years. Such was Britain’s obvious intention. Generations of Raj officers, officials and exploiters had seen the mounting hostility between Hindus and Muslims directly caused by the overt British tendency to favour Muslims for positions in the Indian Civil Service. Such communal strife had not been especially evident before, not even during the centuries of Moghul rule in Delhi. Indeed India has a unique history of religious tolerance, and remains the only nation never to have persecuted the Jews, who have been there for over three thousand years. Britain’s first concern was in creating a buffer state between Soviet Russia and the once-Marxist-leaning India, where, when I lived there in the nineteen-seventies, Soviet propaganda was for sale in all the sidewalk bookstalls (fortunately along with all the magisterial Russian novels). Presumably, London’s fading imperial warriors surmised that a faintly theocratic state would repel the godless Ruskies? When Pakistan proved less tractable and more inclined to accept Moscow’s entreaties, along with its weaponry, the Brits evidently decided that another buffer state was required in the subcontinent. Although the ham-fisted cartographers assigned the task of delineating Pakistan gave no mind to inhabitants of the Punjab, through whose state and villages the inexorable line was drawn (some even awoke the next day to find that their parlour or bedroom was now in another country), the new and vastly reduced, predominantly Sikh state was suddenly viewed with great interest. A Sikh-separatist movement was encouraged and sponsored by London, which trained Sikh fighters in British Columbia, and was behind such outrages as both the siege of the Golden Temple and the assassination of Indira Ghandi (since both assaults on Sikhs and on Hindus served the same nefarious purpose). It is why the appalling Air India bombing is still shrouded in so many layers of obscurity and mystery). But Pakistan bent under pressure, turned its gaze westward (and to the munificent Saudis), and suddenly an independent Sikh buffer state was no longer desirable, dropped as if it burnt the hands. Those Sikhs aware of the plan have never forgiven London for this betrayal, joining those other disaffected hordes who are only all too aware that post-imperialism can be as nasty and ruthless as its earlier form – if not more so in its relative invisibility. Divide and rule.

 

If one wanted to be conspiracy-minded, one could view the recent trend towards greater and greater divisions in western societies as a contemporary refinement of the old divide and rule principle – except that there is nothing secretive about it. We are thus forced to accept the fact that human beings have a natural tendency towards tribalism and factionalism, now encouraged by governments, groups and individuals too stupid, uneducated or blind to the fact that all fragmentation in any society is deleterious to the continued health and prosperity of that society. It pits one faction against another, usually the ones most vociferous in their demands of the whole society – which of course is also so factionalized that it effectively doesn’t exist as a whole of any kind. Think of the clearly defined interest-groups currently well-established: the Indigenous; the LGBTQ community; the black, white, brown, yellow communities; the Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Fundamentalists of all stripes demanding a voice; the white-separatists (less popularly but equally stridently demanding a say); the Feminists of many kinds; the Vegans, insisting we only eat what they eat; and all the various other less prominent groupings, most of whom do not agree or partially disagree with what the others want. To the media – which have not given this matter any serious thought – they all have a case, and a right to express their discontent, even though this right in fact obviates the rights of many other factions. Governments themselves have become maquettes of the larger malaise, with the left attacking the right over every issue as a matter of principle, regardless of whether one side truly and fundamentally disagrees with the other’s position or not. The result is a Babel of futile arguments that in the end achieve nothing whatsoever except confusion, doubt and chaos. In Canada, for example, we have the so-called Commission of Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Such is the pressure exerted by a Liberal Government intent on expunging four or more centuries of guilt in four years that this Commission’s hearings have become an agora of grief and tragedy-porn, with family after family pouring out their sorrow in essentially the same terms: they loved their daughter, whose smile was magical, whose life was precious, and whose unsolved disappearance now squats like a black mountain over their days and years. The loss and sorrow are tangible – and so they should be. But the Commission is supposed to be about discovering why the police were so appallingly lax or incompetent in investigating these disappearances. Statements by the families belong in the dossier, of course they do; but the media attention is so irresistible that these relatives demand to be part of the inquiry itself – and no one dares point out that this public grieving is inappropriate, unnecessary and is costing taxpayers millions in fees for the commissioners who have to sit listening to a story they’ve already heard a thousand times. The whole point of this inquiry – which is NOT a truth and reconciliation hearing – is to discover why and how the police were so negligent, and to recommend ways of preventing such negligence from ever occurring again. This purpose threatens to become lost in hearings that the media – ever-hungry for tragedy-porn – report for their grief-value, seemingly forgetting what the actual purpose of them is supposed to be. I despair that, after spending many, many millions, the Commission will fail to achieve the only goal it was set. Long and unjustly deprived of a voice, the Indigenous are now in danger of undermining themselves by insisting that the Commission be what they want it to be – which will assuredly defeat its own purpose. We see the same thing happening on a smaller scale with the imagined rights proclaimed by every other interest-group, no matter how minor, no matter how irrational.

 

As someone who is legally blind, and a card-carrying member of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, I could easily trumpet the many violations of my rights, and those of all the 200,000-odd blind Canadians, encountered in everyday life, from opportunities for employment to accessibility issues. But I recognize the severe limitations I face in terms of any employment, and the immense problems and massive expense involved in making the world blind-friendly, just as I recognize the easily-understandable lack of organizational skills that prevent the blind from forming advocacy-groups as effective as those formed by the disabled in other ways. I also don’t think of myself as a blind Canadian, but rather as a Canadian who happens to be blind. I am, however, well aware of the uncomfortable deference my condition elicits, particularly in areas of government with which I need to deal and to whom I also happen to mention it. My calls are returned with unnerving alacrity, and I know my gripes – why don’t all traffic lights have an audible signal? – will be taken most seriously and respectfully, even if nothing whatsoever can practically be done about them. But I have no desire to be considered as among a disadvantaged minority, and especially not among one whose unrealistic demands cause yet another commission of inquiry based upon the principle that society is somehow to blame for my inability to function in it. In today’s climate of opinion, no one would dare refute such a charge, as erroneous as it is or would be. The politics of division may seem to empower all, but in reality they disempower those who imagine their empowerment, relegating them to a fragment of the whole, a fragment in which their genuine rights can just as easily be dismissed as their claimed rights – after of course a commission has exhaustively and expensively looked into them for so long that the media and thence the public loses all interest in the issue. Just as war memorials dispense with the need to question all wars, so commissions of inquiry remove the urgency of examining real causes for grievance.

 

Perhaps the most dangerous division yet to have emerged is that currently reaching new heights of intensity between men and women. It is a fact that the empowerment of women – ensuring their rights to contraception and abortion, freeing them from compulsory reproduction like farm animals – is possibly the sole way to ameliorate poverty in the less-developed areas of the world. Only men in those areas, some of them, oppose this provable assertion. Our problem in the west is not that. It is the contention that men and women are in some way the same. We accept that all human beings are in a sense to be regarded as equal under the law. They’re not of course, and the classless society is an impossible fantasy dangled like the carrot you can never catch to inspire the masses in their enslavement. But while equal under the law, men and women are different in many ways, if not in every way. It is also true that all preceding eras to our own did not claim or aspire to the enlightenment that some of us imagine we have now attained. Over the past decade I have listened to all of the arguments patiently, especially the one that says all of history should have been as liberally enlightened as we think we are now – and, what’s more, in not being so enlightened they are all culpable and ought to be punished in some way (in what way, though?). Artists and writers, not just legislators, need to be pilloried – which now means ignored or obliterated – for their sexist sins. Naturally enough, it is usually those whose ignorance is radiant who condemn, say, Shakespeare for his rampant male chauvinism – when in fact no playwright before him wrote so many and such powerful roles for female characters (even if young boys had to act them – which is open to dispute). Yet it is not just ages half a millennium ago where social mores and opinions were vastly different to our own. The ever-burgeoning container of sexual grievances, many dating from decades ago, ought to be forcing us to concede that ideas of sexual propriety have been transformed almost overnight (but certainly within a remarkably brief decade). No one has ever disputed the fact that Harvey Weinstein is not a very nice or likeable man, one whose power in the entertainment business allowed him to treat people like shit. David Lynch’s brilliant film, Mulholland Drive, contains a parodic portrait of him as the bastard obsessed with his espresso. But, as inadmissible to the human race as Weinstein may well be, this witch hunt treating him as guilty when, so far, he has not been charged with any crime is shameful and a violation of those unalienable rights he supposedly still possesses. When he said in his feeble defense that he grew up in times when attitudes were substantially different from our own, he was telling the truth. For people to come forward after forty years trembles the credibility of a law that places no statute of limitations on sexual offenses. Kevin Spacey, and many others are now falling prey to a law that accords the victims with undisputed veracity, while denying the alleged perpetrators their right to be innocent until proven guilty. Why? It happened here with Jian Gomeshoi, and it continued happening even after the court found him not guilty as charged. Like most people, I don’t know if he was guilty or not – and I don’t pretend to know, forced therefore to accept the court’s verdict, whether or not I wish it were otherwise. I had my share of sexual predators in the past – when I was young and pretty – but I wouldn’t dream of dredging this up now. When I was sixteen, the Financial Times drama critic (now long dead), B.A. (Freddie) Young invited me to attend the Royal Shakespeare Company’s preview of their new season in Stratford. Naive as I ten was, I still knew it wasn’t my delightful company he wanted in the hotel with him, so I politely declined the offer. Had I accepted it, I can honestly say that I would have deserved any sexual predations on his part, and I certainly wouldn’t have harboured a grievance for over fifty years, choosing to give vent to it now. You go to someone’s hotel room, you know what’s likely to happen, and it’s as much your fault as it is that of the powerful person from whom you were hoping to get some kind of favour. Even back in the distant days of the casting couch, it was conventional wisdom that you couldn’t fuck your way to success. The abuse of power works both ways too. When I was a television producer and advertising in the papers for interns, I received a number of applications that included, besides the requested resume, an 8 x 10 glamour photograph (from females, I should add), an addition that presumed enticing good looks would succeed where experience failed. It is good indeed that we are leaving such debased times behind us, yet it is not at all good that we are indulging in retrospective outrage, shame or whatever it is up to half a century later and from the safety of a different era – one that may not be as morally flawless as it imagines itself to be. It is not good for the world that women are perceived as history’s victims, no matter how recent the history. And it is far from good or healthy for the law to be so bended that it breaks, branding the innocent as guilty for crimes more imagined than defined by any court or body of law enforcement. Those men who claim to agree with this persecution are also denying the truth of urges most or all males experience, even if they are rarely acted upon. The denial of reality is a most pernicious trend, one that augurs the disintegration of society. Unless we are one in our ideals and goals we can never achieve them, and our society will be risibly easy for those who richly deserve to be identified and condemned to rule with the most velvety of iron fists, pitting faction against faction and destroying the real conversation, which needs to continue forever in the vain hope that it might elicit those changes we truly need to come. We do not need to be politically correct; we need to be morally and ethically correct.

 

Paul William Roberts

 

robertspaulwilliam@gmail.com

Shame

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I am against all organized religions on principle. They’re various forms of tyranny that enslave the mind as well as the human spirit, although, admittedly, some do it more perniciously than others. This distaste, however, does not dissuade me from believing in the individual’s right to live whatever life he or she chooses to live, provided it doesn’t interfere in any way with the rights of others. Quebec’s odious legislation, passed this week as Bill C-62, and heralded as a move towards “religious neutrality”, is a monstrous affront that wantonly violates basic human rights as well as the Canadian Charter, which guarantees freedom of belief and worship. We are being told – dubiously, it’s true – that 87% of Quebeckers support the bill. This only proves, yet again, that, alas, the majority of citizens are too stupid to think for themselves and determine that this legislation specifically and solely targets Muslim women who wear the nikab or face-covering. There are only an estimated 150 of these women in Montreal, the city most affected. So are we passing legislation to persecute a mere 150 women, or are we actually sending a repugnant message to all Muslims: you aren’t welcome here? Obviously it is the latter (unless our legislators are bent on wasting their time and our tax dollars – a possibility that can never be entirely ruled out of any issue). Clearly there are situations – medical, legal – when a face must be visible. But such situations can be handled discreetly in private. Yet this shameful, backward, parochial and barbaric law denies the nikab-wearer the right to any public service, including transportation, and it denies these services without a shred of evidence to suggest that such denial is in the public interest. When has a woman in the nikab ever posed a problem on buses or trains? Never is the answer – unless you count the problems bigots and closed-minded imbeciles pose themselves everywhere all day long. Poor fools. A proposition offered with no evidence to back it ought not to merit any evidence for its refutation.

 

Most stultifying of all is the laughable claim for this bill of “religious neutrality”, when the only people it can possibly affect are Muslim women. One oaf on the radio moaned on about, “If I went to their country wearing a crucifix it wouldn’t be allowed, would it? When in Rome, you know…” For a start, I thought, this is their country now; and it would depend on which one their country was, wouldn’t it? In a few of them you’d be wearing a burka too, so the crucifix would be irrelevant. And we’re not in Rome (where the victims of sexual harassment are currently being blamed for their own rape or misfortune). As for the ban on face-covering in general – which the law alleges it concerns – is it to include hockey goalies, nuns, Halloween disguises, and any protection from minus 30 degrees Centigrade? And religious neutrality? It’s not as if Montreal doesn’t flaunt a fantastically enormous cross on the summit of its mount, is it? If 87% of the population really does approve of this legislation and feel it’s necessary if not vital, then it doesn’t augur well for Quebec sovereignty, does it? Who would want to live in a nation hollering and puking its way back into the 14th century? Perhaps the 13% of us still educated enough to be egalitarian and open-minded can found a Quebe Rationale? This is a national disgrace, as it ought to be, and those Quebeckers too moronic to feel the sting of shame should ask themselves why this is, and also why they are behaving exactly like the Nazi Party they once contentedly housed (under the aegis of Adrien Arcand), until a little problem called the Second World War made it suddenly untenable. Plus ca change…

 

Paul William Roberts

 

robertspaulwilliam@gmail.com

Apocalypse Again?  

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robertspaulwilliam@gmail.com

 

Being the only nation to have used nuclear weapons against innocent civilian populations, in Japan, the US is in a fundamentally weak position for dictating which countries can and cannot have such weapons. Admittedly, the recently provocative behavior of North Korea is baffling to those who do not understand the nature of the status quo there, which someone in Washington must do, since President Trump’s threat to destroy the entire country, as well as his taunt to Kim Il Jung calling him “Rocket Man”, played straight into its hands. The retort from Pyong Yang’s foreign minister showed this: Trump is mentally deranged and “full of megalomania”, and his insulting remarks may provoke North Korea to strike the US west coast with an atomic warhead. Although he wasn’t saying anything that half of Washington isn’t saying daily, the minister’s reaction has to be viewed through North Korean eyes. The leaders of that nation are viewed by an oppressed and brainwashed public literally as deities; a sacred volcano is associated with Kim’s grandfather, also Kim, and his glorious revolution, the birth of a nation. To insult this family is viewed in the same light as orthodox Muslim’s tend to see insults aimed at the Prophet Mohammed. There are no obvious insults or swear words in the Korean language, but there are ways to mortify people without resorting to such blatant terms, one of which is to impugn someone’s sanity. That North Korea’s minister did precisely this to Trump shows us the degree of offense contained to them in Trump’s own derogatory comments, which to us are just empty bombast. That Kim Il Jung’s government can persist with its threats shows us something interesting: either they know for certain that the US is impotent vis a vis a direct attack on the country, or else they are disastrously misjudging the situation in a manner that will be suicidal. So they have some nuclear warheads and a few long-range missiles – so what? Can anyone there seriously believe they stand even a slight chance against the most powerful military force in history? The answer must then be the former contention: they know they’re somehow immune to attack.

 

What then is the case with Iran, which today coincidently tested its own long-range missile capable of carrying multiple warheads as far as Israel? It is surely no secret that Teheran has close ties with Pyong Jang? Moreover these ties have almost certainly provided Iran with its intercontinental ballistic technology – why not the hydrogen bomb too? There is hardly any coincidence in these countries’ twin provocation. Do they both know something that has eluded the rest of us? One thing they definitely know is that the US has never sought direct negotiations with either of them. Why? Since the early 19th century and Metternich’s congresses, diplomacy has been generally regarded by western powers as infinitely preferable to war – except when it isn’t of course. It was possible to negotiate with the Kaiser, but no one really did. It was not possible to negotiate with Hitler (although Chamberlain didn’t get this), so war was the only solution there. But such situations are in fact rare. Diplomacy tends to avert conflict when it is applied. But war is the most profitable of all enterprises, and, as Marx explained, capitalism functions at its optimum in an economy based around wars, as the US economy has been since 1945. Decades ago, Noam Chomsky predicted that the US would have to engage in many small and easily winnable wars for the economy to thrive; and it has done and is doing exactly this, sometimes covertly, as with the CIA operations in Central and South America mainly, and sometimes it is overt – Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria. The wars may technically have mostly been lost, but this misses the point. If their impact on the military-industrial complex is taken into account, they were all winners. As Tocqueville sagely observed long ago, the main motivating characteristic of America and Americans is greed. It thus follows that a war against the nuclear North Korea would be deemed unwinnable, or not winnable without a prohibitively steep cost in men, property and materiel. The same would be true of a war with Iran, which would devastate oil exports from the Gulf Emirates by blocking the Straits of Hormuz with sunken tankers (known to be the Iranian war plan – disused tankers are moored nearby ready to be sunk). American corporations are heavily invested in the Emirates, and some even have their head offices there, like Dick Cheney’s nefarious war-profiteering Halliburton, based in tax-free Dubai. These financial titans have no desire to see their trillion-dollar investments compromised by a pointless little war. If financial considerations are placed ahead of spurious political concerns, perhaps the picture comes more fully into focus. Is this what North Korea and Iran know? Or is it the other fact, that the US always needs a demon to justify its heavy security build-up (the police state), and the trillion dollars annually sucked up by the Pentagon, with its thousand US bases worldwide? Without North Korea and Iran there would be a demonic shortfall. Isis is a nasty nuisance, but hardly a dire threat. Al-Qaeda seems to have retired. And Russia simply isn’t viable – too equal – which leaves China. But Beijing may well be more than equal. Hence the abiding need for Teheran and Pyong Jang. The Israelis can be relied on to handle any clear and present local danger; and China will always keep its mad dog on a fairly tight leash (they don’t want millions of North Korean refugees fleeing across their borders). So perhaps Pyong Jang and Teheran can cock a snook in safety and sleep easy at night, knowing their utility to US capitalism trumps their delinquent behaviour? There is of course also the question of why rich nations can have atomic weapons and poor ones cannot. There’s no easy answer to this – except the suggestion that perhaps  no one should have them.

 

I grew up at the height of the Cold War, when the threat of nuclear annihilation was a daily worry, with regular current affairs stories recounting what new and more terrible weapon had been tested by whom and where (whole atolls in the Pacific vanished; there were unnatural earthquakes in the Urals – a nuclear war had already started for some). Americans had their bomb shelters and drills (evidently resurrected in California since Kim Il Jung’s braggardly threats); but we in England didn’t bother, having been told by Moscow that their first H-bomb would wipe us out in five minutes. It was a similar story in Ontario, for which the Soviet plan was to plop its bombs in the lake, creating a massive tsunami that would obliterate all communities on its banks. The emergency scheme for Toronto admitted that the only tactic was a mass-evacuation, which with the brief warning of an attack there would be didn’t have a hope in hell of being organized in time. So the published leaflet, which I’ve seen, suggested that citizens huddle in basements, with their radios tuned to the a.m. band’s emergency broadcasts for advice and updates. The only problem here was that the a.m. band doesn’t function underground. It amounted to the same thing as crouching under your desk, putting your head between your legs – and kissing your ass goodbye. In 1955, as I have previously noted, Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell and a plethora of eminent scientists, all but one of them a Nobel Laureate, published and paid for a full-page announcement in the Times of London. It said, in essence, that unless all nations on earth did not abandon and outlaw atomic weapons, then the human race had barely a century to go before the planet was a radioactive cinder. That no one listened to those who were generally reckoned to be the most intelligent people on earth speaks volumes about us and our corrupt, useless systems of governance. Since 1945 we have knowingly had the power to destroy this planet in a nuclear holocaust, and, initially at least, we also acquired the means by which to destroy it with greenhouse gases and the other abominations that now typify the Anthropocene Era of human-originated ecological catastrophe. Our reluctance to act and change these travesties because of greed perhaps speaks volumes about who most of us really are. And the serious question thus arises: do we deserve to survive on this once-pristine, flawless planet? I would like to say we do and we will, but all indicators seem to point the other way. It is dismaying, but let the facts be facts and life the thing it can. For this mournful reason I doubt if I shall be writing anymore on politics in this blog. The dizzying vicious circles and the sheer idiotic irresolution and pointlessness of it all are confounding. I shall turn my attention to more fructifying topics, and possibly even take suggestions. Shanah Tova to all, and may the new year bring everything you could hope for.

 

Paul William Roberts

A Message from the Universe

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robertspaulwilliam@gmail.com

 

 

A good friend of mine sent me the audio version of a quirky novel called Trembling: at the speed of night (that’s “night” not “light”), and I thought I’d share an interesting section with you. It’s a complicated murder-mystery that half-way through develops into an odd sort of sci-fi-horror story. At this point, earth has received a communication from extraterrestrial intelligences who claim to be refugees fleeing a star system whose sun is dying, and seeking asylum here. They specifically request permission to land at coordinates in Quebec. The Americans, who have received the signal and are having a frustrating exchange with the aliens, try persuading them to land in the US; but they’re adamant: it must be where they say. So American officials are obliged to inform the Canadian Prime Minister and ask her to grant permission for the landing, insisting the business must be kept highly confidential. She in turn is obliged to inform the Quebec premier, a man she loathes because he plans to hold yet another referendum on the sovereignty issue. What most interests everyone at this stage is the aliens’ promise to gift earth their planetary library of three thousand trillion books concerning all aspects of a civilization said to be ten million years more advanced than our own. We pick up the story just before the secret landing ceases to be a secret, and all hell breaks loose. If you enjoy this as much as I did, I’ll post others, since the plot has more twists and turns than a Laurentian road.

 

From Trembling: at the speed of night by Duncan McNibb

                            It is set a decade or so in the future                  

 

At 13.00 hours the world changed, or rather it started to change. National CBC television and radio broadcasts were interrupted by a live address from the Prime Minister. Bergit Khan didn’t feel she could keep such momentous news from the Canadian public, who had a right to know. Clearly, though, they didn’t have a right to know everything: for the story Khan told made it sound as if a crew of intergalactic philanthropists were sailing our way in a cosmic library, to gift us with all the benefits of their immense wisdom and venerable civilization. Canada had been selected for this extraterrestrial benevolence, said the PM, due to the nation’s widespread international reputation for politesse, highly-restrained belligerence, fair-play and maple syrup. She was about to say more when another program cut in on her, and it was this one – soon labelled the Geomorph – that rammed the world into a grinder, from which what emerged was unrecognizable. For it wasn’t just the CBC interrupted; it was every station on earth and all over the Internet – in every language too. By mid-afternoon the U-Tube version had ten billion hits, because people weren’t viewing it only once: they were watching repeatedly, obsessively, compulsively. What you saw was a man in black seated behind a gleaming steel desk, a flag or banner filling the space behind him, its logo a red circle with two wavering green lines running diagonally through it on a field of blue dotted with nine silvery-white stars. Beneath the glossy black hair, threaded moderately with grey, this man’s face was morphing through every face that ever was, black, white, blue, yellow, red, ochre, pink, pointy, flat, jutting, withdrawn, square, round – all and everything imaginable. He said nothing for some moments, letting viewers take it in. Then he spoke, and nothing was ever the same again:

‘That’s right,’ he said, and everyone heard him speak their own tongue, ‘take it in, get used to it. For it is your new normal. We are the face of your planet, and, before you groan, we’re not happy about it either. But we’ve known this day would come for thousands of years – just not so soon – and we were prepared. Your pleasant little planet was chosen above seven others back in the Time of the Archons – to you, perhaps a million years ago – and we’ve been watching ever since, assessing, monitoring, ascertaining the stability, and of course visiting. Incognito, naturally. How else do you imagine your distant ancestors suddenly hatched out of apes? You still have plenty of apes, don’t you? Are they “evolving”, as you so laughably call it? No, they’re not, are they? Creatures adapt, but they aren’t heading anywhere; they aren’t aiming for some ultimate goal. Because there is no ultimate goal. Life just goes on, doesn’t it? On and on and on. We gave you a little nudge, though; and we watched, with interest at first. But, I have to tell you, it soon became excruciating, tedious, mind-numbing. The only animal here blessed with a brain that’s the most complex organism in the whole universe – I should know, I designed it – granted dominion over all other creatures, and what did you do? Nothing, that’s what you did. Nothing. We had it on what you’d probably call our television; but soon hardly anyone was watching. We canned it as a broadcast. Who is going to watch nothing happening for hundreds of thousands of years? You’re right: no one. The Tetrarchs watched on, though; we had to, had to consult the Academy about tectonic shift, earth crust displacement, and all the structural problems that make your planet somewhat dodgy at times. Occasionally we’d look in on you. By this stage you are what you’d call Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals, traipsing up out of Africa as the northern climate improved, changing your diet a little, and using that massive brain – for what? For the stunning realization that certain stones or rocks could be chipped into blades; and the blades didn’t necessarily have to be held, chafing fingers, reducing reach – they could actually be attached, using plant fibres, to sticks of many lengths. Amazing, no? No. It was sad. And boring. Very boring. It was especially sad for me, though, since I’d had such high hopes for that great brain. We’re not supposed to meddle with alien lifeforms; but we do; everyone does. Many told me that this apparent failure was my punishment for illicit meddling. We did some tests. It was soon apparent that genetic material from your apes had a more potent resilience than we’d bargained for. It was dominant. It explained why you fought each other all the time. You killed your spouses and children too, so there was no rhyme or reason to it, no safety or security in the family or tribe – as you liked to pretend there was. Look at your chimpanzees today: mayhem, occasional cuteness, carnage, a justified and utter lack of trust. That’s what it’s like. What, you say?: there wasn’t enough wildlife teeming away in the forests and on the plains for you all to eat, to share? It’s not as if you had more pressing business than hunting, is it? No. And some had no pressing business at all – just hope the mysterious sun would rise tomorrow, and then lie there gaping at the stars, not a cogent thought in your low-browed heads. Pathetic. Risible. Were you so bored that stomping over to the nearest cave-dwellers, kicking them over a cliff, dashing out their brains, and taking their stuff seemed like a worthwhile enterprise? And no one really had any stuff, did they? A few skins, bones, some stone blades; and the womenfolk of course. You did know how to breed, if not why you were doing it. Perhaps the sight of other beings you suspect – curtesy of a still pool or slow river – resemble you infuriates something inside? Hmm? What is it? The world isn’t big enough for you? Life isn’t big enough? And the poor Neanderthals! They bothered no one, kept to themselves, didn’t even eat flesh. But that wasn’t good enough, was it? Oh no. You had to exterminate them, didn’t you? But they clearly weren’t so repugnant or loathsome that you couldn’t rape some of their women and haul them off into the smoke, were they? I must admit, I was expecting more, much more. We all were. Five, six, seven hundred thousand years, chip-chip, chop-chop, whack! There’s only so much one can bear, isn’t there? When the art started, our spirits were lifted – figuratively speaking – but not for long. Animals, animals, animals – that’s all you daubed to brighten up those choking caverns that were too dark to see anything in without a fire – and then the smoke blotted everything out again. Miserable. Art is about people, not animals. Why didn’t you paint yourselves? Too shameful, eh? Too arduous? You didn’t dare hold up the mirror, eh? In the time it took for you to discover one tool – a pebble of flint – our histories tell, we had developed into a civilization estimated to be ten million years ahead of yours now. And that was a million years ago. I couldn’t take it anymore. None of us could. Even if it meant breaking the law – and our lawyers will argue that it wasn’t, it didn’t – we determined to help you in any way we could. We started on a large island in the mid-Atlantic – you still call it Atlantis, even though you don’t believe it existed, hah! – in order to contain the experiment in case it failed. Yes, there was some genetic fiddling. Since this was nominally illegal in our world – so until then it was all theory, no practice — there was some trial and error. Quite a bit of error in fact. The first four beings we created turned out to be far too intelligent, far too advanced. We were looking for a farming people, an agricultural society, not a tribe of sages, lordly hierarchs. Philosophy doesn’t do much for sowers of seed, does it? No. But the next batch we produced proved not to be intelligent enough. The brain I designed was mighty indeed, but with this bunch it was housed inside what was more ape than man. It was analogous to giving one of your computers to a gorilla: the lights might be fascinating, but utility ends there. So we were moving on to making a third group when disaster struck – as it will do on your planet. A crustal displacement sent the whole island continent hurtling south – it’s now what you call Antarctica. If you ever get around to exploring a mile or so beneath the ice there, you’ll still be able to find ruins of our city, and even the racecourse described by Plato, whose grandfather, Solon, heard this account from the Egyptian priesthood, who knew all about it. Obviously, there weren’t many survivors; but there were some. We headed up into orbit, as you might expect; the cataclysm was a shock; we weren’t about to venture down again until we were certain the planet was stable — which was quite some time by your standards. And what we found both surprised and, initially, dismayed us. Our first four replicants – the very intelligent ones – had evidently escaped the catastrophe in a sailing ship they’d wisely built in anticipation of such an event; they sailed along with a large number of beings from the second creation. Their ship had crossed the ocean and found its way into what you call the Mediterranean, eventually landing in Egypt, which was then largely fertile savannah. This would be, for you, about 12,000 years ago. By the time we arrived, the four sages had established themselves as god-like leaders over the ape men and women, who’d been reproducing at a frenzied rate. It was their one great talent. There were thousands of them, lumbering about with this vast brain tormenting them. It kept giving them ideas they couldn’t use, which made them deeply depressed, a state with which we were quite unfamiliar. Yet the four godlings had been able to keep this gloomy mass under a semblance of control. There was a remarkable sense of order and even devotion; as well as signs of a constructive development far exceeding that of the violent Cro-Magnons shivering away up in Europe. Yet it was clear that our ape people were in for a rough time of it, handicapped on both ends of the genetic code. We realized we’d blundered, and perhaps realized more fully why our meddling was allegedly forbidden. One learns from experience, as even you may have noticed by now – not that there’s much evidence of it. We felt obliged to correct the mistake. There were far too many of these beings just to phase them out naturally – a law we do all recognize is that one should not kill fellow beings, no matter how stupid they might be – so it was proposed that we introduce into them a gene which would impede reproduction in the next generation, soon erasing the race. But when the four godlings heard of this they objected strenuously. We had assumed they would return with us to our world, where aging is different; yet they had become rather attached to their hierarchic roles there, and to their devoted ape people, insisting they stay and guide these poor creatures towards a more hopeful future. They should not be cleaned off the slate, it was maintained. The proper way to correct such an abominable error, we were told, was for our godlings to remain as shepherds, working to undo the harm rather than pretend it had never occurred. We were chastised by our own creations. Of course we were forced to agree – logic is highly prized among us – and we said we’d keep an eye on their progress with the ape people, who by then knew their ruling shepherds as Isis, Osiris, Nephthys, and Horus – names still remembered today by a few of you. Compared with what I’d been seeing in the wretched dripping forests of Europe – 700 millennia and nothing – progress in Egypt was electrifying, a blur of activity. With all of our wisdom in their triple helix – I know yours is only double, like our ape people – the quaternary of deities were soon able to teach our sciences to their flock, whose self-esteem burgeoned incomparably as they witnessed the work of their hands effloresce in a hundred directions: astonishing architecture, art, a system of writing, medicine, and a philosophy that explained the nature and meaning of life, as well as the structure of the universe. Admittedly, we wondered – I certainly did – how your historians would explain this explosion of learning out of nothing, hunter-gatherers to high civilization in a few centuries. But they seem to ignore the issue. Which is, shall we say, rather unusual, somewhat incurious. We could see this would spread rapidly, this idea of civilization, which it did; and we found that our godlings had split up, two of them travelling to the place known as Bharata, now India, where they settled up in the Himalayas to avoid a tremendous flood. There they were known by many names, Indra, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, Saraswati, and so forth. Their works have long since vanished in that appalling climate, but their wisdom still remains, handed down in an oral tradition, now enshrined in what are known as the Vedas, and which in fact contain everything necessary to restart a civilization if most of humankind is wiped from the face of the earth. An eventuality that may well happen. Because, as we watched Egypt unfurl, reaching for its destiny, we noticed an alarming trend. The love of wisdom was mutating into a love of stuff, gold, jewels, palaces, excess; and the pure philosophy was deteriorating into those religions which have become a curse on your planet, a major rationale for your endless conflicts – not that you require much of a rationale to fight one another pointlessly. An egalitarian society is one where each does according to his or her ability, and receives according to his or her need – and Egypt had this. But it degenerated into an ossified hierarchy, where human beings were bought and sold by other human beings, in order to serve those few at the apex of the social pyramid who had gradually acquired all the wealth, and thus all the power. Even the pharaoh, who posed as a god, was under their control; it deflected attention away from them, as they proceeded in their work of debasing the civilization in every area to satisfy a boundless greed. Instead of conferring on the world wisdom and the inestimable virtue of sharing, they offered the template for ostentation, acquisition and division. How can any society hope to advance on such a riven, fissured basis? If you look at it – which precious few of you now seem inclined to do – you will notice that Egypt begins at its zenith, with the rest of its 3,000-year history a slow decline into decadence, and then worse. At the outset, 5,000 years ago, everything is at its peak of perfection, the writing, the art, the engineering, the philosophy, the medical knowledge, the mathematics, and so forth. Fast forward three millennia, to what you call the Ptolemaic period, and what do you find. Ugh! It’s embarrassing. This trend puzzled us; we had only seen the reverse in our culture, one generation always building on the previous achievements, no regression. Those who perch upon the shoulders of giants can always see further than the giants. But we recognized the downward trend as a consequence of the ill-adapted brain; so we felt obligated to help correct it as best we could. And we have sent you our best, those you regard as your own: Confucius, Lao-Tzu, Krishna, Buddha, Hammurabi, Moses, Pythagoras, Plato, Jesus,  Copernicus, Newton – need I go on? Some of you have responded well to these corrective efforts; but most of you have not. Not at all, you haven’t. Must I point out that your planet today is merely a far more dangerous version of the lawless jungle from whence you sprang? I trust not. But I am wearying you with my tale, am I? We all felt you were owed an explanation for what is to come, and so I have provided you with one. As I said in my opening remarks, we are in the unfortunate position of losing our own planet, obliged now to occupy what you consider to be yours. Technically, we are refugees – the term seems to elicit empathy in some of you – but refugees don’t immediately assume control, do they? No. So it is my duty now to inform you that we are in control of Planet Earth; resistance will be futile – in fact it will be impossible, for we have neutralized all your extremely nasty, primitive weapons systems. Go, check, not even one of your horribly iniquitous and inequitable little guns will work. It is already complete; it is over. You will do what we tell you, at least until we judge that you are able to act in a sane and rational manner on your own. You are in no position to make demands of us or to dictate terms, conditions. No. You have made this place a midden, a dung-heap, and we do not live in such places. You will set about repairing the damage and cleaning it up forthwith. Until it is in a satisfactory state, we shall remain in our vessel, unseen. You think you are seeing me now, but this image is only visible for your benefit, your edification. In fact you are unable to see any of us, since our nature is beyond your conception – you would be incapable of describing it – and what cannot be conceived cannot be seen. Instructions will be issued periodically, but our first one for you is that, as of now, all religions are forbidden, their texts to be destroyed, their places of worship – or those we consider fit for the task – converted to the propagation of a philosophy we shall be providing you with in due course. The signs for these places will read only “House of Wisdom”, nothing else. I realize that all of this will be something of a shock for you; but you badly need to be shocked out of your indolence, complacency and barbarism. We shall be landing when conditions are optimal; but until then do not imagine we cannot see what each and every one of you is up to, and even what you are thinking. So purify your minds and hearts. You are up against a force whose scope and strength would, if it could be known, be horripilating to you all, here in the disquietingly decayed remnants of what cannot in all honesty even be called a civilization anymore. Evolution? Hah! We didn’t send you Darwin – he’s definitely one of yours. In fact you’re in your darkest age, the Era of the Lie. There is Truth, and there is its negation, the Lie, an absence not a quality. You now call it “post-truth”, to avoid facing the truth. But you went from pre-truth straight to post-truth, barely ever pausing in the middle, where truth lies. A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, illusions – but you’ve forgotten what they are. Yes. You can’t distinguish between facts and opinions anymore. All you want these days is entertainment, isn’t it? You splutter on about democracy, but you don’t even know what it is. To you now it’s just voting for the best singer. When we look down on your world we think there might be four major divisions. But no. All these languages confusing everything; and this pullulation of wretched little countries, each with its own petty little truth. You blabber on about all people being created equal, but you don’t believe it in practice; you don’t care if your freedom means another’s slavery, do you? Your schools teach mainly obedience (you’ve become so very unruly); they kill imagination, which is the greatest gift of all. You worship wealth, not any god; but what you most adore is power. Look at those you elect to lead you: men and women from wealth and power, all of whom prostrate themselves at the altars of efficiency, not autonomy or freedom. Efficiency belongs in a business, not in governance, where more profound considerations ought to prevail. You announce equal opportunities for all – anyone can work hard and become rich – but they don’t really exist, do they? A tiny minority of you are rich, and they are determined to keep it that way, ensuring that only their offspring get a decent education, because no one else can afford it. The idea of a place where one person has nothing and nowhere to live, while another has a dozen homes and more than ten thousand hard workers earn in a lifetime, such a place defies belief for us. It seems so impossible that we used it in jokes and comedies as a Wonderland – I mean Alice’s not Canada’s – a realm of total inversion, a planet without logic, a kind of hell. Only studying you people did we realise such a hell could exist. You have logic, and a few of you understand it; yet there is no evidence for it being employed anywhere, or at least not for long, and never in situations where it is most needed. In your puny little nations you prefer to go to war rather than contemplate the logic of sharing as a means to advance the world. We have a comedian who specialises in describing ridiculous situations found in your world. One of her most beloved routines involves a politician here ranting about your universities being the major hotbeds of social reform.’ A pause. ‘You don’t get it, do you? To us, that politician is complaining that the most intelligent and best-educated among you tend to propound the dire necessity for social reform.’ Another pause. ‘Still don’t get it? Well, our sense of humour will not tickle your ribs. Since you commodified education, you seem to have ceased to value it as well. Correct? Well, I shall move on. Many of you have little choice but to toil all day long every day just to survive; but many of you also have some options and the potential ability to transform the ills of society – yet scarcely any do it. Why? Because you believe any politician who promises you what you want, and you’re too stupid to see that they never deliver these promises, serving only the interests of those elites who finance their careers. Anyone can become rich, they tell you. Indeed, everyone could become rich. This hope is kept alive by get-rich-quick scams and lotteries, whose jackpots often exceed the gross national income of many nations. One day you’re counting out food stamps and wondering if you can afford dialysis, the next you’re banking a check for $500 million and buying your own clinic. I hear a few chuckles. Yet this is still a fantasy you harbour, isn’t it? The rich apex of your pyramid only serves as a role-model, rather than the emblem of an iniquitous society, a botched civilization, which is what it ought to represent. You want to be rich, not to share – and sharing is the only possible way to improve the lives of you all. In our society, sharing defines virtue and a good life – indeed people vie with one another to see who can most completely share what they have – and greed, the desire to receive, is viewed as the very nadir of baseness, since it is at the root of all social and planetary problems. Of course no one is remotely greedy in your exalted terms; and when we call someone ‘greedy’ it is said in jest over some trifle, just as you call each other “idiots” or “morons” after some slight faux pas or insignificant blunder. But when I call you “greedy people” it is the very worst insult I have in my arsenal. Half your planet does not even possess the ability and circumstances needed in order for greed to manifest; one quarter is getting there; and the rest – those of you who have more than the other six billion – cannot get enough. I, me, mine: it passes for your philosophy. Lulled by gluttony, a tragic diet, indolence and apathy, you yearn for the lottery win that is less likely than a seagull spitting a diamond into your grasping palm; you dream, rather than effect the changing tide that will raise all boats. You may as well be dead, my friends – and perhaps you are. Your ruling elites have constructed such a fortress around their systems of control that it seems impossible to force any change — for those few of you who ponder doing it, that is. Anyone can be a ruler, they say – and there are always a few token examples to show you this might be true. Anyone can try running for high office – this is true – but only those approved, and usually funded by the elites will get elected. So few of you have the drive to try it that none of you really understands the problem inherent in a society posing as a democracy but not being remotely democratic. Yet anyone can govern; everyone can become rich. If anyone could govern you’d have a democracy; but if everyone was rich no one would be rich. Do you imagine that your rulers would dangle a carrot whose reality would destroy their control? It seems unlikely, doesn’t it? This alone ought to give you a sneaking suspicion that you’ve been told a whopping great lie, a lie that has ruined your life and any hope of happiness – the pursuit of which, along with life and liberty are your fundamental rights. So even your alleged rights are a lie, are they? It seems that way. You are victims of a gross deception: you ought to be outraged at those who have perpetrated it. Yet you’re not; You idolize them for having the wealth and power soon to be yours too, when you buy that ticket. Perverse, isn’t it? This is what we have come to liberate you from. We do not expect gratitude; but we demand obedience and respect.’ A pause; he frowns. ‘I can see that this is still not clear. I shall be patient with you, and restate again.  While we condemn your greed and indolence, we can see it is your rulers who deserve most of the blame and more of the scorn. You are thus fortunate to have us here, for we are now the rulers, and over the coming months we shall be dismantling all governments on earth and replacing them with regional parliaments answerable to a central Global Committee, which will be the sole legislative body. By this time next year, I can promise you that your lives and this planet will be unrecognizable.     And I hear you say, “Me? Is he talking about me, about us?”’ A pause. ‘I’m talking about all of you, wallowing in your fantasy worlds of “if” and “when”. Let me reiterate further, lest even one among you fails to understand what you are all being told. This is not a debate, not a proposition. In our world truth is not a subject for debate or discussion. It is established, as inviolable and secure as the air or oceans – although these are perhaps not good analogies for you. We are not seeking your opinion. Our Plato told you that truth exists inviolate in the deeper realms; you merely have to trust and connect Truth has the invaluable advantage of being true. Yet you preferred your Nietzsche, with his cascading moustache trying to shut his jabbering mouth, as he told you reality and illusion were the same thing. That was when you could all read and write of course. Now most of you – the ones with free access to education, I mean – are functionally illiterate. You can, perhaps, but you don’t. It’s a deplorable situation, isn’t it? Unforgiveable, really, especially in those given so much. So confused are you about reality and illusion that many don’t believe the facts concerning what damage you’re doing to your planet, your only home, even when you see the consequences all around you. Well, it’s our only home now too, and this idiocy will cease immediately. Take a look at what harm you’ve done, and at what little you’ve really achieved in your five millennia – if anything. Technology and liberal democracies, you say; they’ve made our lives so much easier. But they haven’t, have they? Technology has given you the ability to destroy your planet; and its rapid advance is only thanks to the military, to your eternal wars. What you imagine are democracies are merely a smokescreen to conceal the fact that greed and power control your nations, and most live as de facto slaves, indentured to debt and the fear of losing healthcare benefits, pensions. Your lives are harder, not easier. Your rulers have commodified you all; you are what you spend, what you buy. Depression is rife; suicide is ever on the rise; over half your relationships end in divorce; you think technology has connected you to the world, yet loneliness is endemic, a plague. Does this sound like advancement? No. The dental care is good – for those who can afford it, that is. And now we find that you’re dabbling with the genome yourselves, the idea being to create a race of supermen, deathless, brilliantly intelligent, blonde and blue-eyed too, no doubt. And of course only available to those who can afford it. What abominations of tyrannous inequity and heartless oppression will this result in? Fortunately, you will never have to find out; for we shall terminate that work forthwith. What would you do with you if you were us? Hmm?  But, when all is said and done, we are your fathers, and we have no intention of harming our children. Punishing, yes, maybe; but harming, no. Go in peace, amity, industry and in the certainty that everything will soon be improved – and for all of you. We shall meet again very soon. Var-Vargaan-Amuunt.” This last polysyllabic word is intoned, a rumbling tubal drone, a summons that echoes in the deeps of an eternal cosmos.

 

*************

From here on, the novel’s plot continues at a blistering pace, nothing ever being quite what it seems to be, stories within stories, and an enormous cast of hilariously eccentric characters, with a style that can be as creepily horrific as it can be exceedingly beautiful. As said, if you enjoyed it and want more, e-mail me at the above address. I can’t easily access comments in the blog. Meanwhile, I shall await the start of summer, the Canadian version, not this soggy English one we’ve been fobbed off with.

 

PWR

 

No Rest for the Wicked

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Sorrow to Barcelona, that wonderfully exquisite and usually-peaceful little city.

 

Is it not curious how human wickedness seeks out an equal but opposite wickedness to partner with as an enemy? There is essentially no substantive difference between the ideologies of ISIS and those of the so-called white-supremacists and neo-Nazis. Both identify an infidel, an “other” who needs to be obliterated in order that the faithful can thrive. Neither have any connection with the religions they purport to promote; and neither major religion wants any connection with them. I find the term “neo-Nazis” as malapropos as “neo-murderers” would be, or even “neo-idiots”. They are Nazis plain and simple, proponents of a poisonous doctrine – it can scarcely merit the title “ideology” – based upon a specious “racial science”, but really rooted in primal fears and hatreds still secreted deep in the old reptile brain. Like ISIS, their acts and atrocities – with apologies to Hannah Arendt – can hardly be called “banal”, even if their leading figures are ludicrously lacking in appeal, reason and character. We all hope that Adolf Hitler will remain the greatest monster in human history, although he is certainly never wanting for would-be rivals. We all hope that the Holocaust will remain the greatest single crime in history – and much evidence suggests that it will. Yet these pockets of gross iniquity are still with us. How to deal with them?

 

You get caught for unpaid taxes; you get caught for the fines on traffic tickets; deadbeat dads are regularly hauled in and squeezed dry. So why is it so hard to track down the braying voices on toxic websites and in foul, self-serving chatrooms, tweets or sundry blabbers? The answer is that it isn’t – or it wouldn’t be, if more resources were thrown behind it, using top coders, hackers, or whatever they are to chivvy out from their cyber-lairs these cowardly mini-monsters and bring them to justice. If a few laws have to be changed to do it – then why not? Such people recognize no one else’s rights; ergo they can be permitted no rights of their own. Freedom of speech is not an absolute (you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theatre, as the law books say, if there is no fire), so you ought not be able to spout racio-religious hatred with impunity. Indeed, you ought not be able knowingly to promote any lie at all. It is not difficult these days to determine what “knowingly” is. And one lie that badly needs to be demolished is the idea of race itself. Studies of the human genome have shown that it is identical in all humans, whether they’re from Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas or indigenous Australia. In short, there is no such thing as race; there are merely adaptive changes in appearance caused by long centuries in differing climes and under vastly varied circumstances. So racial prejudice is literally nonsensical – as nonsensical and inhumane as the class distinctions to which, in varying ways and modes, we still so ardently cling.

 

Yet instead of buckling down to the real problem at hand, we in the liberal democracies choose to throw sops to those who complain of inequities. Although the dismantling of a statue representing Robert E. Lee in Charlotteville cannot be said to be the real cause of disturbances there, it was certainly a lightning rod for them. We had a similar issue in Canada, with the shrouding of Cornwallis in a Halifax park. More such lamely inappropriate gestures are evidently planned for various other monuments to the supposedly now-ignoble in other US cities – and no doubt these will incite more unrest. I have a problem with history being occluded, swept under the carpet in this way. For a start, Robert E. Lee was a great general who fought nobly for the Confederacy (having been asked by President Lincoln to lead the northern armies – a post he refused since Virginia was his home state). Secondly, the American Civil War initially had nothing to do with slavery or the rights of black Americans. Lincoln only made this connection when the frightfully bloody conflict drew to a close and it had better have been about something more important than territory (and of course blacks were subsequently treated no better in the north). So there was in fact no tangible reason to take down a statue of Lee. Admittedly, Cornwallis in Halifax is a far less savory character, yet he did still found the city – an historical fact that no occlusion can deny. He has a place in the local culture. He also, for his bad, put a bounty on the heads of Mic-Mac Indians. I suggested to the city that, instead of hiding the statue, they hire an indigenous artist, like Kent Monkman, or a Mic-Mac, to add something to the monument that would convey the suffering caused by Cornwallis. But no, the sculpture still stands under its tarpaulin, in effect offending everyone. I don’t think many Haligonians condone what Cornwallis is notorious for doing, yet I do know that many are attached to their history because it is their history. These monuments ought not be hidden – indeed they can’t be in reality – but they can be added to or embellished in the light of new realities. This is especially to be considered now when their destruction or occlusion rouses up the kind of primeval sentiments that result in death and injury. Imagine what would happen if a tribute to Islam or the Prophet Mohammed was ordered to be destroyed. We need to be rooting out the hateful and educating the rest, not baiting them with fresh provocations. Do try to enjoy the rest of your summer.

 

Paul William Roberts

  

Early Dog Days

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RIP Liou Zha Bo, a great friend of world peace and true democracy, a scholar and a poet, who tended to view his country through a lens too sharp for his time. Like everywhere, China is different. Her governments don’t brook criticism – not from anyone, except, occasionally, themselves – which tells you they’re insecure, understandably uncertain how they’d deal with the rising up of a billion disaffected people. Better to crush all nascent dissent, and give everyone else a little taste of wealth. Just a little. Better also to let the waking dragon roar a bit at the world, at the coffers and vaults of the west. It’s been asleep for so long. But, all in all, is the US any more tolerant of vehement dissent? Was there any real substantial difference between the Kent State massacres and Tiananmen Square? And China hasn’t sent 500,000 young men and women to their deaths in foreign wars over the past fifty years, has she? Let the dragon yawn and stretch; its time is surely nigh, and then we shall have to change our indolent ways.

 

Julie Paillette (my spelling is aural, not visual, so forgive if necessary). A wonderful choice for the new Canadian Governor-General. Her Majesty will probably enjoy chatting with an astronaut, someone who has obtained a real perspective on this world. Kudos to le Petit. I am hard on him, true, but only because I want him to be perfect – which, alas, he’s far from being, as are we all. I think he wants to do the right thing; but I suspect there are more powerful forces preventing him, consigning him to a purely decorative role. Will he have his father’s integrity and grit, to speak out one day? – that’s the question. We deserve to know who really holds the reins here, even if there’s nothing we can do about it. Or nothing legal, nothing peaceful.

 

Your Money and Your Life  

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Dear Taxpayer,

Do you feel that the government does not truly value the 35% of your income it claims? I do. This week’s examples: $500 million tossed away on a fantastically frivolous and fairly unpopular 150th anniversary of Canada being handed over to a bunch of racist white guys in frock coats who ran it anyway. The $i0.5 million awarded as an apology to the terrorist Omar Kottar, because at the time he murdered an American medic and blinded another man he was a “child soldier” and thus knew not what he did. He wasn’t five, he was fifteen, a man in those parts of the world whence his family originates. Boys his age have been sentenced as adults in the UK and elsewhere if the crime warrants it. If Kottar was old enough to handle a rifle and throw hand grenades, he’s old enough to pay the price. So Canada trampled over some Charter rights in the process – who cares? Why should a terrorist have any rights? They don’t accord us rights. That the taxpayer should be forced to compensate this man to the tune of $10.5 million is scandalous, another grandstanding world gesture by Trudeau le Petit to bolster up his global image as cool dude PM. Not at home, pal. Add to this the planned $ trillion on defense and you wonder if there ought to be some curb on government spending. The half billion spent on a hundred-foot duck and a birthday jamboree could have been used to keep all those idle promises to improve the lot of indigenous communities. The trillion on death machines could make this place paradise. But no – the same old shit. We should demand an Internet plebiscite on all spending over X amount of dollars. You want to blow half a billion on pompous frippery, press Yes or No.

 

But the UN finally managed to do something useful. They passed a treaty banning nuclear weapons. Except – surprise, surprise – the 122 signees were all countries that do not possess nuclear weapons. Disgracefully, Canada did not sign, losing an opportunity to be a meaningful world leader. Did your government ask you if you wanted to ban nuclear weapons? No, of course not. The arrogant Dark Lords want to keep their toys, which “act as a deterrent”. A deterrent against what or whom? Have we not been dragged into enough pointless European conflicts by Britain now to be willing participants in endless US global rumbles? You would think we’ve learnt our lesson, and perhaps we have – but the Molochs on Parliament Hill haven’t. Besides, fear makes for strong governments. Let me tell you something about fear. In 1955, Betrand Russell and Albert Einstein – then widely considered to be the two most intelligent men alive – issued a manifesto on the dangers of nuclear war. It was co-signed by eleven other individuals, ten of them Nobel laureates. Einstein died shortly thereafter, but said that it was his firm conviction that if we did not rid the world of nuclear weapons the human race had a hundred years left at the most. The text stands today as it did then, except we should probably add at least one zero where applicable. Read it for yourself and decide how far behind intelligent people the world actually is. By the way, Joseph Rotblat was the only scientist to quit the Manhattan Project in protest.

 

The Russell-Einstein Manifesto

 

9 July 1955

 

In the tragic situation which confronts humanity, we feel that scientists should assemble in conference to appraise the perils that have arisen as a result of the development of weapons of mass destruction, and to discuss a resolution in the spirit of the appended draft.

 

We are speaking on this occasion, not as members of this or that nation, continent, or creed, but as human beings, members of the species Man, whose continued existence is in doubt. The world is full of conflicts; and, overshadowing all minor conflicts, the titanic struggle between Communism and anti-Communism.

 

Almost everybody who is politically conscious has strong feelings about one or more of these issues; but we want you, if you can, to set aside such feelings and consider yourselves only as members of a biological species which has had a remarkable history, and whose disappearance none of us can desire.

 

We shall try to say no single word which should appeal to one group rather than to another. All, equally, are in peril, and, if the peril is understood, there is hope that they may collectively avert it.

 

We have to learn to think in a new way. We have to learn to ask ourselves, not what steps can be taken to give military victory to whatever group we prefer, for there no longer are such steps; the question we have to ask ourselves is: what steps can be taken to prevent a military contest of which the issue must be disastrous to all parties?

 

The general public, and even many men in positions of authority, have not realized what would be involved in a war with nuclear bombs. The general public still thinks in terms of the obliteration of cities. It is understood that the new bombs are more powerful than the old, and that, while one A-bomb could obliterate Hiroshima, one H-bomb could obliterate the largest cities, such as London, New York, and Moscow.

 

No doubt in an H-bomb war great cities would be obliterated. But this is one of the minor disasters that would have to be faced. If everybody in London, New York, and Moscow were exterminated, the world might, in the course of a few centuries, recover from the blow. But we now know, especially since the Bikini test, that nuclear bombs can gradually spread destruction over a very much wider area than had been supposed.

 

It is stated on very good authority that a bomb can now be manufactured which will be 2,500 times as powerful as that which destroyed Hiroshima.

 

Such a bomb, if exploded near the ground or under water, sends radio-active particles into the upper air. They sink gradually and reach the surface of the earth in the form of a deadly dust or rain. It was this dust which infected the Japanese fishermen and their catch of fish.

 

No one knows how widely such lethal radio-active particles might be diffused, but the best authorities are unanimous in saying that a war with H-bombs might possibly put an end to the human race. It is feared that if many H-bombs are used there will be universal death, sudden only for a minority, but for the majority a slow torture of disease and disintegration.

 

Many warnings have been uttered by eminent men of science and by authorities in military strategy. None of them will say that the worst results are certain. What they do say is that these results are possible, and no one can be sure that they will not be realized. We have not yet found that the views of experts on this question depend in any degree upon their politics or prejudices. They depend only, so far as our researches have revealed, upon the extent of the particular expert’s knowledge. We have found that the men who know most are the most gloomy.

 

Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?1 People will not face this alternative because it is so difficult to abolish war.

 

The abolition of war will demand distasteful limitations of national sovereignty. But what perhaps impedes understanding of the situation more than anything else is that the term “mankind” feels vague and abstract. People scarcely realize in imagination that the danger is to themselves and their children and their grandchildren, and not only to a dimly apprehended humanity. They can scarcely bring themselves to grasp that they, individually, and those whom they love are in imminent danger of perishing agonizingly. And so they hope that perhaps war may be allowed to continue provided modern weapons are prohibited.

 

This hope is illusory. Whatever agreements not to use H-bombs had been reached in time of peace, they would no longer be considered binding in time of war, and both sides would set to work to manufacture H-bombs as soon as war broke out, for, if one side manufactured the bombs and the other did not, the side that manufactured them would inevitably be victorious.

 

Although an agreement to renounce nuclear weapons as part of a general reduction of armaments would not afford an ultimate solution, it would serve certain important purposes.

 

First, any agreement between East and West is to the good in so far as it tends to diminish tension. Second, the abolition of thermo-nuclear weapons, if each side believed that the other had carried it out sincerely, would lessen the fear of a sudden attack in the style of Pearl Harbour, which at present keeps both sides in a state of nervous apprehension. We should, therefore, welcome such an agreement though only as a first step.

 

Most of us are not neutral in feeling, but, as human beings, we have to remember that, if the issues between East and West are to be decided in any manner that can give any possible satisfaction to anybody, whether Communist or anti-Communist, whether Asian or European or American, whether White or Black, then these issues must not be decided by war. We should wish this to be understood, both in the East and in the West.

 

There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.

 

Resolution:

 

We invite this Congress, and through it the scientists of the world and the general public, to subscribe to the following resolution:

 

“In view of the fact that in any future world war nuclear weapons will certainly be employed, and that such weapons threaten the continued existence of mankind, we urge the governments of the world to realize, and to acknowledge publicly, that their purpose cannot be furthered by a world war, and we urge them, consequently, to find peaceful means for the settlement of all matters of dispute between them.”

 

Signatories:

 

Max Born

Percy W. Bridgman

Albert Einstein

Leopold Infeld

Frederic Joliot-Curie

Herman J. Muller

Linus Pauling

Cecil F. Powell

Joseph Rotblat

Bertrand Russell

Hideki Yukawa

The Canadian Empire

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Let’s say I have a thousand dollars to spend on my house and my large property. The house is in bad need of repairs. I have relatives living in a cottage on the grounds that is in even worse shape: they have no running water there too. An uncle of mine is living on the streets, homeless. But what I decide to do with my thousand dollars is buy some guns and install a security system for my property. Does this make sense? Well, this is what Trudeau le Petit, PM of Canada has decided to do with his thousand dollars – sorry, your trillion dollars.

 

All those cosy little dinners with Obama must have given him delusions of grandeur. First Christia Freeland, the Foreign Affairs Minister, says Canada should step up to the plate, the plate evidently vacated by America, and then we hear, the following day, that we shall increase our defense spending by 70 percent. Not on my tax dollars, brother! Who exactly are we defending ourselves against with this massive increase? Ah, we find, a few days later, with effusive CBC coverage, it must be the Russians. For a detachment of Canadian troops is now settling comfortably in to protect the Latvians from the Bear. Many Latvians say this protection is unnecessary – the Bear is friendly. And, one is forced to think, how much protection will 600 Canadians afford against the Russian military?

 

This country ought to set a real example and adopt a pacifist constitution – save the trillion dollars for what is needed here – yet it won’t. You wonder if there are dreams of empire in the PM’s office – a sunny little empire not at all despotic. If wisdom reigned, these little corners of erstwhile empire would be left to sort out their own problems in their own time. We weren’t dragged into modernity by the scruff the neck, and nor should they be. But until we wake up to our interference in their worlds, they will be.

 

Paul William Roberts